And so she too 'leapt over' the convent wall
GLARE SIMON reviews four Novels flavour about the whole thing that THE NUN'S STORY, by Kathryn Hulme (Muller, 15s.). MOmRoEst perhaps attihe lo than the e story., the story of a struggle between a soul and a religious vocation has the power to grip and move. I read this account of a girl who entered a Belgian nursing order at the age of 21 and was faced years later with the "leap over the wall" decision at a single sitting.
It is done in the form of a novel --and a good novel, too but the landmarks are those of the life of a real nun, and the threefold hurdle of poverty. chastity and obedience is a barricade familiar even to those of us who have only toyed with the idea of a vocation. And most of us will sympathise with Sister Luke in her story as it gradually emerges that she can deal with the first two and not the last.
Sister Luke entered her convent.
propelled by a mildly broken heart. with the fixed idea of going to nurse in the Belgian Congo. Somewhat to her surprise, her superiors did not immediately direct her to the field for which she felt she was most suited, ,but sent her for a spell to work in a lunatic asylum.
Adjusting herself, Sister Luke soon felt herself to be in the confidence of and working wonders with her patients, until the evening when she so far forgot her vow of obedience as to go into the cell of a dangerously deranged patient alone ...
This practical demonstration that others knew best convinced Sister Luke for the time being. and she went to the Congo. But later, back in Europe during the Occupation, the conflict was to begin again. Against the constant change of identities, the disguises, and the sudden disappearances, the see-saw agony between obedient nun and self-owning human being took on an urgent quality that takes the story to a dramatic climax. I enjoyed this book not so much
because it seemed to be true to life but because I felt that the author, whatever her private feelings, has allowed us to keep ours. We don't in fact know at the end whether
Sister Luke's final decision was the right one for her as a person.
There is nothing sickly or unreal about the nuns in the story. And there are plenty of good touches: for instance, in the asylum. the mad "abbess," once a real abbess., who walked about with a paper bag on her head and whose mania for holy poverty had led her to cut all the valuable manuscripts in her convent library into tiny squares. This sounds remarkably like the reasoning of some holy extremists, and perhaps it was this my idea. not the author's that gave Sister Luke. a reasonable human being. her first headache.
SOEUR ANGELE AND THE GHOSTS OF CHAMBORD, by Henry Catalan (Sheed & Ward, 9s.).
STUDENTS of the whimsical type of detective story will be delighted with the idea of a Sister of Charity turned detective. It is not all whimsy, either, for Soeur Angele is a qualified doctor and the whole thing rests on a very solid foundation of clues and deduction.
There is a good moment in this story of a bunch of actors making a film in an ancient chateau when the murderer. taking a crack at the inconvenient nos) -pat ker nun, is foiled in his death-blow by her head-dress.
It seems odd to complain about frankness of expression in a story of which a nun is the heroine, but 1 could have done without Conchita. Sister Angele's Watson. whose mother is a kept woman and who is always ready with a precocious remark. There is a
has not quite the innocence of Sister Angelo herself and this. I think, is a pit in a book that would othrwise have delighted any amount of English Socur Angeles.
THE TOWERS OF TREBIZOND, by Ruse Macaulay (Collins. 13s. 6d.).
IT'S hard to tell what it's all about. but Miss Macaulay is such a delight to read that there is no putting it down.
"Corning home from abroad is very neurotic," as Miss Macaulay says, but this novel is mostly about before that happens. about a proposed Anglican mission to Turkey and the narrator who is mystical in fits and starts.
Among the other characters, an ape and a camel seem the most normal.
'There are some amusing satirical shafts directed at the one "Roman Catholic" of the party. but he is kindly treated because he is clearly vet}, sincere and always ready to explain things.
THE. RED PRIEST. by Wyndham Lewis (Methuen, 15s.).
THERE is a good deal of strong
characterisation and power behind this tasteless character study of an Anglo-Catholic priest Silowe to the press as "the Red priest.",